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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Container gardening in Ireland, including Annual Bedding Plants

Tips on How to Ensure Colour from Containers.

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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
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PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2007 8:13 pm    Post subject: Tips on How to Ensure Colour from Containers. Reply with quote

Tips on How to Ensure Colour from Containers.

Container gardening really is fantastic. On its own, a terracotta pot is just a container and summer bedding is just a group of plants. However, selectively plant the summer bedding in the container, add a few sprinkles of green-fingered expertise and you have created your own miniature garden-scape. The creative planting of containers allows people who may just have a balcony to enjoy a small taste of horticulture; it also brings the garden within the reach of a disabled persons fork and trowel.

Planted glazed container, photo / pic / image.

To enable you to create thriving container plantings for the summer, please consider the following...
If you intend replanting any old containers, you should get rid of all traces of compost from the previous year. Be scrupulous in your washing as particles of previous year's compost can harbour pests, diseases and mould spores.

Ensure a clean environment for growing, by washing the heavier covering of old compost off with a hose. Follow this by plunging the containers into water containing a garden disinfectant such as "Jeyes fluid". Scrub off any stubborn compost with a scrubbing brush, do this whilst in the disinfectant.

Rinse the containers well under running water and leave them to dry. Use this method on window boxes as well, particularly if you have a build up of old compost and your planting tends to finish flowering far too early.

Check your container for adequate drainage holes, If you have too few or no drainage holes at all, then your plants may suffer from oxygen starvation due to excess water. To prevent drainage points becoming blocked with compost, I suggest placing a layer of broken terracotta or polystyrene bedding plant trays over the drainage holes. In fact, broken polystyrene bedding plant trays can also be used to fill the main body of larger containers; this will reduce the amount of potting compost needed.

Fill your container with a quality peat or loam-based compost and firm lightly. Ensure this compost stops at least 1 inch below the lip of the container; this will be your watering space.

It may seem obvious to say, but you must select healthy plants for your containers. Quality plants are those well-rounded specimens with strong roots, lush foliage and many swelling flower buds.

Hours before planting, these plants should be plunged into a bucket of water, to thoroughly soak them. Watering like this will prevent shock upon replanting and will also help merge the plants existing compost to its new container compost.

Clusters of container grown plants, photo / pic / image.

3 important ways to improve your containers.


The type of growing compost you fill your container with should be specially developed for container use. The bags of this "Container", "Potting" or "Hanging basket compost" in your garden centre, should contain an added slow release fertiliser and a wetting agent to allow re-watering should the compost ever dry out. Please be aware that there are also peat-free composts available for those of you concerned about the loss of our peat-lands through harvesting.

Avoid the cheaper option of just using soil direct from your garden to fill your containers. It may harbour pests, plus it tends to compact to a hard mass within the container after repeated watering.

Before planting your container, window box or hanging basket, you should position the plants you intend to use on top of the container to get an impression of what the final planting could look like. It is better to alter positions at this stage rather than at the mucky post planting stage.

When it comes to the planting proper, you should aim to plant from the centre/middle of the container outwards. Create a central or offset central hole big enough for the rootball of the central plant. Examples of good central plants would be a Cordyline or Phormium, any plants with strong architectural form.

Remove the pot (believe me, some people forget this) and place the plant into the hole firming the compost around it. Then, settle the rest of the plants in similar planting style throughout the container and around the edges. All the plants should end up at the same depth, as they were in their original containers, not too low, not too high.

As I mentioned above, ensure the containers compost stops at least 1 inch below the lip of the container; this is to allow a watering space. Level the surface of the compost with your hand and water thoroughly until water starts to flow from the containers base. Leave the container to sit for about an hour, if after that hour any of the compost has settled then you may top it up.

Wooden and unglazed terracotta containers will usually require much more water due to their porous and absorbent nature. To finish off all your containers, I suggest you apply a mulch of mini-chip bark or gravel to the composts surface, as well as being decorative this will lessen the containers loss of water through evaporation. This in turn will lessen the watering frequency for you, the gardener.

Don't forget; check your containers daily for adequate moisture, watering them deeply if required.

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